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mHealth use is widespread, but patients aren’t sharing data

By Jennifer Bresnick

Plenty of patients are embracing mHealth as a way to track their daily activities, diets, and vital signs, but they are unlikely to share that data with their physicians unless specifically asked, says a new mobile health survey from Mobiquity.  While 70% of consumers use mHealth tools like wristbands and smartphones to track their health on a daily basis, only 40% have provided reports to their doctors, hindered by privacy concerns and questions over whether their physicians think the data is valuable or not.

“We believe 2014 is the year that mobile health will make the leap from early adopters to mainstream,” said the survey. “But before we jump ahead, it’s worth understanding the experiences of today’s consumers and their attitudes toward using smartphones to track their health and fitness.”

Of the 60% of patients who keep their data to themselves, 73% say that it never occurred to them to let their physician know about their mHealth use.  More worryingly, 11% admit that they don’t think their doctor would take them seriously, even though 70% of physicians whose patients did share data were interested in the findings.

Patients are most often using mHealth apps to help them achieve fitness or dietary goals, motivate them into making better choices, and doing research about health issues.  Only 5% of patients use mHealth to manage their medication adherence, and just 2% currently connect with professionals through their smartphones.

Patient privacy was the biggest concern when consumers were asked about obstacles to using mHealth as a part of their routine care.  Sixty-one percent cited privacy as a major deterrent, compared to only 24% who thought mHealth was too time-consuming to bother with.  However, a third of respondents would be much more likely to engage in mHealth activities if they were recommended by their physician, representing a significant opportunity for providers to get involved in the promotion of mHealth has a viable means of self-care.

Tracking caloric intake and monitoring weight were the two most popular uses for mHealth apps, followed by tracking exercise, doing research or using diagnosis engines, and setting up medication reminders.  Nearly half of consumers who used mHealth apps did so daily, while 25% access apps several times a day and an additional 18% use them at least once per week.

“There’s a huge opportunity for medical professionals, pharmaceutical companies and health organizations to use mobile to drive positive behavior change and, as a result, better patient outcomes,” said Scott Snyder, Mobiquity’s President and Chief Strategy Officer. “The gap will be closed by those who design mobile health solutions that are indispensable and laser-focused on users’ goals, and that carefully balance data collection with user control and privacy.”




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